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Globe and Mail: Patkau Architects
Alex Bozikovic | April 1, 2018

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The quiet genius of Vancouvers Patkau Architects

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/art-and-architecture/article-the-quiet-genius-of-vancouvers-patkau-architects/

From Issue No. 267 | April 1, 2018

The Polygon Gallery contains what used to be Presentation House Gallery, a small-but-mighty institution at the centre of Vancouver’s photography and media-arts scene.

“Underneath, it’s very quiet and dour,” says John Patkau. “But when the light hits it a certain way, it shimmers.” Mr. Patkau and his wife and fellow architect, Patricia, are walking around their latest project, the Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver. And as they’re talking about the building, the sun comes out from behind the clouds; the rays coax from the gallery’s steel and aluminum facades a subtle ripple. “It acts with the light,” Ms. Patkau says of the building. “It changes dramatically, depending on when and where you’re looking at it.”

You could say the same about Patkau Architects. Long based in Vancouver, the couple have held a place among Canada’s most accomplished architects, recognized by international critics and awarded a series of major buildings including Montreal’s Grande Bibliothèque. And yet, even in their adopted hometown, they remain in the shadows. Nobody better represents the tensions in Canadian architecture between greatness and commerce, between public triumph and the quiet private life.

The Polygon Gallery represents a Vancouver star turn, following the 2016 completion of the Audain Art Museum in Whistler. The two buildings are their most significant in the province. The Audain, a private museum that houses the collection of developer Michael Audain, has deservedly won a string of international awards. The Polygon building, which opened to the public Nov. 18, is a subtle masterpiece in itself. 

The Polygon Gallery contains what used to be Presentation House Gallery, a small-but-mighty institution at the centre of Vancouver’s photography and media-arts scene. The $18-million, 25,000-square-foot building is organized in a simple scheme: lobby, bar, gift shop and rented retail spaces downstairs, with galleries and a flexible event space upstairs. Director Reid Shier says the architects did “a superhuman job,” cramming the institution’s many requirements into the space while keeping the ground level transparent.

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